Food for mums and babies: nutrition at lambing

9 March, 2017 - 10:52 | Sue Blacker

Lambs double in size in the last month in the ewe, which is a real challenge to the ewe to keep up with this as well as the additional situation of less room inside!   So feeding more frequently, twice or even three times a day, will regulate intake better and make it more effective.   Insufficient food can lead to dead lambs, or ewes, or twin lamb disease, poor quality colostrum and lower milk production.  Too much concentrated food can reduce the pH in the rumen, so quality is as important as quantity, and forage is key, with concentrates as a supplement.   Added yeast has been shown to be useful in improving colostrum quality and reduces the build-up of lactic acid in the rumen, which helps increase milk yield and quality.

Is it all in the soil?

9 March, 2017 - 10:46 | Sue Blacker


We know that the correct minerals and trace elements are essential for good health of sheep, goats and alpacas – but how do we know what to do about this?

Firstly we need soil tests.  These are easier than you might think – you should take about 30 samples diagonally across the field, mix in a bucket to get a representative sample of the whole field then put some in a bag to post off for a soil test.  Ideally, soil testing should be done every two years, as rain, grazing and hay or silage cutting will all affect the soil balance.

Sheep and Copper

20 June, 2016 - 13:30 | Lara Pollard-Jones

In my (Sue's) experience, the biggest single factor in health of sheep is the correct balance of minerals, which permits their immune systems to function optimally.  Thus for example, most sheep should not have much copper, though all need some, with downland and Texel sheep being particularly susceptible to copper poisoning, fine-woolled sheep intermediate, while Gotlands and Finnsheep are more tolerant than other breeds and indeed need a greater amount.


30 May, 2016 - 13:30 | Lara Pollard-Jones


Though not everyone keeps sheep for meat, those who do will be aware that there are by-products from the abattoir which in most cases do not come back to the producer.  The most obvious are the skins, along with horns and offal usually.  Abattoirs sell these products elsewhere into the relevant trade but is possible to get skins back for tanning.

There are a few areas of red tape that have to be considered when sending sheepskins to the tannery.  This is mainly due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, along with strict rules regarding movement, skins were no longer permitted back on the holding that the animal came from.  However, since then the Animal By-Product Regulations came into effect which allows individuals to collect fresh skins from the abattoir.  In most cases an AB117 form needs to be complete to ensure that your skins are returned to be tanned.

Mules and Mashams

23 May, 2016 - 11:00 | Lara Pollard-Jones

Mules and Half Breds are the most common type of sheep in the country and make up a large majority of our commercial flocks.  They are good mothers and can carry twins, triplets or even quads!  They produce fast-growing, lively lambs which makes them perfect for the commercial meat market.  As well as this, some types of Mule also produce high-quality fleeces due to the rams that have been used as sires.


Spotlight on Southdowns

25 April, 2016 - 09:06 | Lara Pollard-Jones

A Southdown Sheep

The Southdown sheep has been established in the UK for over two hundred years, but has been in its current ‘improved’ state since the 1800’s with the breed society being established in 1893.  The fibre can be as fine as 29 microns (comparable to Shetland in some cases) and has been used for knitwear for many years.

Fly strike

18 April, 2016 - 13:10 | Lara Pollard-Jones

The thought of flystrike can send a chill through any shepherd; though no illness or disease in sheep is pleasant, this is one of the worst.  After a mild, very wet winter, the numbers of fly larvae around will be greater than usual, so it will be doubly important to watch out for strike and deal with it without risking  compromise to the health of the sheep or the potential to use the wool.

The economic cost of flies is estimated to reduce milk yields by 0.5 litres per cow per day and growth rates by 0.3kg per head per day in cattle, which can easily be extrapolated to sheep - it's not just the damage to an animal which has been struck, but the irritation which distracts the whole flock from getting on with eating and growing.


Portland Sheep and the Combined Flock Book

11 April, 2016 - 13:00 | Lara Pollard-Jones

A small flock of Portland sheep.  Image courtesy of BWMB.

When breeding any animal it is important to aim for correct and healthy offspring, but when breeding pedigree stock the breed standard is the first thing to be take into consideration. With some breeds, coloured sheep are not accepted into the breed registry and people are discouraged from breeding them; the same can be said for certain markings, as the resulting sheep is not true to type.  In breeds where there are large numbers, this is not a problem as sheep with undesirable characteristics can more easily be excluded from t

Sheep as Therapy

4 April, 2016 - 14:42 | Lara Pollard-Jones

An example of a well turned out Ryeland sheep.
Image courtesy of Hawthorns Ryelands.

Those local to us may have seen an article in the Western Morning News at the end of last month:  ‘Cornish care home helps to save rare breed sheep.’  While the Ryeland sheep in question aren’t any longer a rare breed (they were on the RBST survival list a few years ago, but have since grown in number so that they are no longer at risk) they certainly are working wonders with people with learning disabilities at HIghdowns Farm.



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Sue Blacker
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